Review by: Sandra Heidemann, The American Journal of Play, The Saint Paul Foundation - March 1, 2012
In my work, I frequently observe teachers in the classroom. Some of what I have noticed echoes what I have heard at conferences and workshops: Teachers are feeling pressured by new early learning standards and rising expectations for school readiness; They are unsure of how play fits into these demands; Officials have cut time devoted to play to create more time for early math and literacy activities; Teachers often use the time children are playing to catch up on paperwork or set up the next activities; Although it may be frustrating to see teachers take a hands-off approach to play, they may not always understand what is expected of them during that time; And, it is difficult to learn how to scaffold play skills. Addressing these issues in Developmentally Appropriate Play, Gaye Gronlund presents strategies that teach teachers the skills to help children thrive within the context of play experiences.
Gronlund brings her experience as a classroom teacher, author, and consultant to bear in promoting play as a primary pathway to learning. Her past work has included books on observing and assessing children and integrating early-learning standards into a preschool curriculum. In this book she challenges practitioners to facilitate a higher level of thinking and interacting by deepening children's play experiences. The early-childhood field, in recent times, has focused on interactions between adults and children. Robert Pianta developed the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to evaluate teachers' exchanges with children. Gronlund's book adds another dimension to this discussion.
In the foreword to the book, Ellen Frede of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) describes the variety of approaches she observes in classrooms: Some teachers set up the environment but interact very little during play; Others pull children out for small groups and other cognitive activities. She writes, "I have found that the hardest concepts for teachers to learn are how to effectively include play in the classroom and the teacher's role in play" (p. xiii). Gronlund addresses these two issues throughout the rest of the book. She argues that to encourage developmentally appropriate play, teachers need to know how to include play in the classroom and how to define their own role in it. In the first two chapters, she discusses the importance of play, especially the concept of a high level of play (p. 24). The next two chapters outline how to plan for and set up an engaging play environment in the early-childhood setting. Following this, she presents strategies to increase intentional and purposeful interactions between children and adults in play scenarios. In chapter 7, she provides examples of math and literacy representations offered in play. The last chapter focuses on standards and how they are met in play.
The book contains stories, examples, concrete activities, and illustrations throughout, making it accessible for all who are working directly with young children. Although clearly written for teachers in regular classroom settings, its insights and strategies could be applied in the work of special-education teachers, play therapists, and child-life workers. In addition, it would be valuable supplemental reading for courses in child development and children's play. Professional-development initiatives and students practicums could use this as a companion piece to supervision and coaching.
Although much has been written about facilitating play in the early-childhood classroom, Frede is right when she says teachers do not always know how to include play in the classroom, nor do they know what their roles are when they do. Setting up the environment seems to come easier for teachers, but interactions with children during play can be awkward and infrequent. Gronlund's suggestions give teachers a picture of how their contacts could be structured during play. She provides concrete strategies-listing openended questions (p. 80), discussing ways to enter and exit play (p.71), and suggesting what to watch for as you do (p. 76)-to help adults become more deliberate in their interactions. She describes provocations as actions teachers take to provoke and stretch a child's thinking (p. 92). Provocations require a response and encourage problem solving. These provocations may include adding new and interesting material, reading a book, or taking a field trip. They may mean changing the configuration of the group so that children play with others they do not know well. She provides examples of representational activities in math and literacy and includes templates for use in a play bakery, restaurant, and doctor's office in the appendix (p. 171).
My one caution is not about the book, which is a helpful tool for those who work in the early-childhood field. It is a caution about what we expect. Many teachers cannot learn the skills required to move children to a higher level of play unless they also receive coaching, observation and feedback, and reflection time. Video recording helps teachers evaluate themselves. Reading a book is not enough. Teachers need the support of those who supervise them, train them, and coach them. As Gronlund points out, when teachers successfully learn to intentionally interact with children during play, we will see children engaged with the rapt "attention that children devote to a complex play experience" (p. 25).
Review: The Midwest Book Review- California Bookwatch November 2010 - November 1, 2010
The most beneficial play is fun and all-engaging: it holds purpose as well as pleasure and adults can help kids achieve this with the strategies presented in Developmentally Appropriate Play. Strategies for early childhood teachers offer keys to creating an environment conducive to rich play and tells how to blend early learning strategies with play options. Early childhood collections will this comes packed with specific examples.
Review: The Midwest Book Review- The Bookwatch October 2010 - October 1, 2010
DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PLAY; GUIDING YOUNG CHILDREN TO A HIGHER LEVEL provides a powerful early childhood survey packed with teaching methods and best strategies for facilitating high-level play. From interaction with kids to adding documentation and drawing and bleding early learning standards into play, this offers parents and educators an excellent survey and is a pick for any early learning library.
Review: The Midwest Book Review- Wisconsin Bookwatch August 2010 - August 1, 2010
Play is more than just wasting time; it's learning. "Developmentally Appropriate Play: Guiding Young Children to a Higher Level" is a guide for encouraging smart play in one's children and encouraging them to have more fulfilling experiences through their play. From weaving in education, interactions, and more, Gaye Fronlund offers much perspective on the power or play, and amkes for quite the enlightening read for parents and early education teachers. "Developmentally Appropriate Play" is a treasure of information, highly recommended.
Review: Book News Inc. - August 1, 2010
A former preschool, kindergarted, and primary teacher of both regular and special education, Gronlund is an early childhood consultant and trainer. She presents a practical text that analyzes the processes and identifies actions that early childhood teachers can take to engage their students in high-level play experiences. Filled with ideas and strategies for various type of play - dramatic play, block play, play with sensory materials (sand, water), and play with manipulatives - the text is based on guiding principles from the 2009 third edition of Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8 released by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The text is illustrated with b&w photographs and diagrams and contains reproducible forms. No subject index. (Annotation 2010 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)